Pre-departure briefings for migrant workers, which are organised by the Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training (BMET) in order to give migrants relevant information on their destination, see little turnout despite attendance being mandatory by the government.
According to the briefing centre at Probashi Kallyan Bhaban, a total of 3,703 migrant workers attended their pre-departure briefing in the first three months of 2013.
However, BMET data shows that a total of 107,626 workers went abroad for jobs during the same period.
Similarly in 2012, out of almost 600,000 migrant workers who went abroad, only 18,000 attended the pre-departure briefing.
On April 11, 2008, the Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment Ministry,in a letter to BMET and Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies (BAIRA),urged workers to follow the government’s decision on pre-departure briefing, which was made mandatory on April 15, 2008.
The letter saidno aspirant migrant worker would get immigration clearance without attending the pre-departure briefing.
According to the ministry, workers abroad face various problems, as they are not completely aware of rules and regulation, customs and culture of the respective countries.
It also notedthat workers become victims of untoward situations,putting Bangladesh’s image abroad at risk.
In addition, as per the Wage Earners’ Welfare Fund Rules, 2002, foreign jobseekers must be given an orientation or briefing on the rules and regulations, social customs, culture, weather, environment, language, labour laws and responsibilities and duties ahead of their departure.
The pre-departure briefingsare conducted by officials from BMET, Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment Ministry and the Foreign Ministry.
The one-hour briefings are specifically designed to make a migrants’ transition to working abroad easier.
“I have come here to learn the rules and regulations, and what I will do at the airport,” said Shakhinafrom Jessore, who was going to work as a housemaid in Jordan,while talking to the Dhaka Tribune at the briefing centre on Sunday.
The briefings are held between 2-3pm and 4-5pm on working days, where in addition tohandbooks and other supporting materials on their destination, attendeesreceive an honorarium of Tk1,000 from the Wage Earners’ Welfare Fund.
However,questions were raised about the quality of the briefings.The official who has givena number of pre-departure briefings said was less effective due to time constraints.
The official suggestedincludingvideos of the workers’ destination countries to the briefing, and added that experienced returnees can also be selected to give briefings to new migrants.
Sarat Das,the International Organization for Migration’smission chief in Dhaka, told the Dhaka Tribune recently that it gives importance to the pre-departure briefing, as it is helpful to the migrants abroad.
He also urged that the quality of the briefing at BMET be improved.He suggested that the briefingshave to be decentralised from the government mechanism to reach more migrant workers.
Meanwhile, expressing frustration over the poor attendance, an official at the briefing centre said: “We cannot maintain the schedule as most of the aspirant migrant workers do not attend the briefing.”
“Whenever we see poor attendance, we inform the officer concerned not to come to give briefing,” the official added.
The Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment secretary Zafar Ahmed Khan told the Dhaka Tribune at his office on Monday:“A strategy needs to be sorted outto bring all migrant workers to the briefing centre.”
On the other hand, thesecretary general of Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies Ali Haidar Chowdhury said:“The briefing is necessary but it is the government’s responsibility to bring all migrant workers to the briefing centre.”